“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By tking heed thereto accroding to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” (Psalm 119, 9-10.)
This month we will get to know the testimony of our young brother, Haralampou Paraskeva.
- Babbi, give us your testimony of Christ as well, starting from your childhood years.
- I was born on 3rd July 1986 in Athens. I lived in Kallithea for the first four years of my life, and later we moved to Kokkino Milo (Athens area) where I grew up, went to school, spent time with my friends.
- In your family, was there any interest in the things related to God?
- My family was a typical family with a traditional relationship to religion until, at some point, my father was prompted by a friend of his to read the Holy Bible. Of course, this friend of his was not even a Christian, he was a Muslim. Reading the Word of God, he started going deeper, and God at some point bore him again (but without him being aware of the existence of the word (“new birth”). However, he changed completely as a person. My mother saw this as well, but we were still very young.
- Do you remember anything about this period?
-I remember that every evening after work my father would read the Holy Bible and I remember that he also took me and my brother to read with him. Then he asked us what we had understood, and this way we did something like “co-study”. This benefited me very much, the things I had learned stayed inside me, and I believe it was exactly as the Word of God says: “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
- Did you go to any church?
- No, back then we only studied the Holy Bible at home. When I went to second grade of junior secondary school, and after my father had been prompted, I also started reading the Word of God. The things I was reading touched me, I continued with interest and then what I now know is the process of new birth started happening to me as well. I felt some light coming inside me, changing me and filling me with love. At the same time however, some friends were encouraging me all the time to go out with them and not to stay inside and read. This way what had started happening inside me was discontinued.
- You were also at a difficult age.
-Yes, I just entered adolescence. My friends and their company were pulling me, and I slowly started going out to cafeterias, bars, meeting girls. At the time, my father spoke to me from the Holy Bible, he showed me the parts where it talks about fornication and about relationships outside marriage, and he told me that what I was doing was a sin. I knew that what he was telling me was true (I could not annul it and say that it was not true because I knew), but in the end I said: “yes, it is not right, but I like it and I want to do it”.
- You were honest.
-I would say more impudent. From then on for some years I was living in the world. But I want to say that I never had any problem with drugs or something like this. My problem was solely relationships with girls. At some point over those years, my father caught the “Christianity” channel on the radio. Since he first “filtered” the things he heard and discovered that it was according to the Word of God, afterwards he started listening to it all the time. I also listened to it (more in the summers when I worked with him in building industry) until in about 2001 we lost the channel and we could not find it on the radio anymore.
- It closed down from being broadcast then.
-Yes, it closed down. We were searching for it (I am sure just like a lot of other people who were listening to it at the time), but we did not know anything about the church, we did not have any other information. My life continued in the same rhythm until one thing happened to me. Although until then I had always been careful regarding relationships, and had been taking precaution, at some point I stopped doing it.
- For what reason?
-Through these situations disappointment and indifference came inside me, I stopped everything and said, whatever is supposed to happen, let it happen. At that period of time I went out one evening with one girl, and the next day (after the party, as they say) I learned some really bad things about her. That she was living a very unstable life, that she was using drugs and other things. Then big fear came inside my heart that I had caught some incurable disease, AIDS especially. I lifted my eyes towards heaven and said: “My God, save me. I know that what I have been doing for so many years is wrong, but I do not have the power to stop it. Only you can help me”.
- Had you been praying all those years at all?
- Yes, I prayed many times. For exams at school, for my father to have a job, and for other problems. However, the prayer I said that evening was different, because it was the first time I had asked God to come and change my life. A few days passed and one of my mother’s colleagues invited her to her wedding. My parents went and when they returned, my father said to me: “Do you remember that radio channel we used to listen to? We have found the church”.
- Was it the church where they went to the wedding?
- Yes, there was a wedding at the Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost in Menidi. As soon as he said this to me, it was as if one light had sparkled in me, because I understood that it was the answer I was looking for. The following Friday we started going to church in Menidi, and soon, very soon – I thank God – the day when God visited me came.
- Tell us what happened.
-I heard about new birth which God grants to a man and even though I really desired it, I had not experienced it. I discussed it with some brothers who prompted me to ask the Lord for it with my whole heart. This way one Sunday, at the time of prayer, not whispering but shouting, I asked God to give me a new birth. I had not managed to close my mouth, and at that moment everything from in front of me disappeared and I started seeing one picture. I saw a road which led to a marble staircase, in a semicircle, which then led to a golden gate. The gate was open and the voice of God was heard saying: “Come, come”. I felt that it was directed towards me as well and I said to him: “Me too, Lord?” He said: “Yes, of course, you as well”. “But” I said to him, “I have never obeyed your word and I chose to do my own will”. The Lord told me: “I have forgotten it, do you still remember it?” At the same moment I returned, understood what was happening around me, and I saw the bench in front of me covered with tears. Then I realized that I was sobbing. However, every tear that had come out of my heart slowly emptied it, until it was clean and light in the end, and there was one flame burning inside.
- Was then that you had seen a spiritual vision?
-Yes, and through this experience the Lord rebore me. An experience which I will never forget. Afterwards, when I heard about baptism in water, it did not bother me at all, or I was not disconcerted by it. And I owe this to one teacher whom I had at school, an orthodox theologian, who always told us that baptism of babies is something completely wrong, something which did not exist in the first four centuries of church. Thus I was baptized in water a few days later.
- How old were you, Babbi?
-Twenty. Then a struggle to receive the Holy Spirit started, because I wanted this very much as well. I went wherever I heard that prayers took place, I went to all-night prayers, and about three months later, the Lord came and baptised me with the Holy Spirit during a prayer in the church in Menidi. Furthermore, I can say that I was flying in the clouds, I was not touching the earth. Something that was good on the one hand but bad on the other, because I may have been reborn, and my heart became like a heart of a child, but the world had not changed at all. It was the same, filled with evil. I remember when I went to my faculty to attend some lesson, from evil, irony, and contempt which existed around me I felt as if hundreds of wasps were stinging me. The Lord let some bad situations happen so that I landed in the end, but I believe it had to happen this way.
- Which faculty do you go to?
-I passed at Technological Institute of Pirea at the department of electrical sciences. However, after some period of time I saw that the subject did not interest me and in the end I decided to pursue a profession which I had liked since I was little, hairdressing. At some point I found myself at one exhibition related to my work, at one exhibition centre in Peania. And there I met my current wife Elizabeth.
- Did you meet her there?
- I had known her from before, when I was 16. Something was about to happen between us, but it did not go on. Then we lost each other and I found her again years later at that exhibition, since she also became a beautician. We started chatting and, apart from other things, I found out that she was also a teacher at some Sunday school. In relation to this, we talked about the Word of God, she started coming to church as well, she liked it very much, believed in the written Word of God, and in the end was reborn and baptized. This way the Lord acted in a very nice way and not only saved one soul, but created one new family as well, since we married later and now we are walking together.
- Praise God! Now as a new person, how do you see things around you?
- To be honest, difficult, very difficult. You encounter problems everywhere. Economic, with unemployment, diseases. However, I believe that these bad things happening at this period of time will turn to good when God comes and brings the outcome. Because many of those things will turn into lessons for us, so that we come closer to Jesus Christ and to the truths of the Gospel.